Recently I came across a post on one of my reader Facebook group where a girl asked, "How do I get started as a book blogger?" I started thinking about my own journey into book blogging and I figured I'd write a post with some of my own recommendations in the hopes that it might help someone else just getting started in the somewhat complicated world of book blogging.
My whole journey started when I began working part-time at an independent bookstore in my hometown. We were inundated with books sent by publishers, but so few of them were romance novels. I'm talking maybe 1 in 100 books sent to our store were romance novels. My mom, who also worked and continues to work at the bookstore, recommended that I start a blog and reach out to publishers on my own to see if they'd send me romance novels. And I did, and then they did.
In the last two years my Instagram has gone from 1 follower (my mom) to 2,600 followers. My blog has gone from 1 reader (thanks again, mom) to nearly 1,000 readers a month. Now, I know that's not as impressive as some of those 300k and 1.1 million follower accounts, but I don't have endless money for beautiful hardcovers. I don't have a professional camera and lighting. I don't have all the time in the world to spend staging photos. What I have is an apartment crammed with cats and secondhand paperbacks, a two year old phone camera, and a job that keeps me out of the house 55 hours a week. So, if I can do it... you can, too.
Here are my tips:
1. Create your accounts. You don't need a blog in order to review books, but some blogger groups do require it. That said, you don't have to pay for it (and I recommend you don't bother paying, at least until you know whether this is something you'll want to stick with)! There are tons of blogging websites like Wordpress, Blogspot, Blogger, and Wix that allow you to use their platforms for free! You absolutely must make a Goodreads account, if you don't already have one. Set up your Instagram account. Try to use a bookish username so that people know right off the bat what your account is about.
2. Learn to use Instagram. This may seem like a duh tip, but not everyone is well-versed in the ways of promoting on Instagram. Follow bookstagram accounts that spark something in you and figure out what they're doing. What makes them popular? What do you like about their pictures, their comments, their posts content? How do they interact with their follower? And then study hashtags, which just so happen to be the most important part of Instagram. What hashtags should you be using in your posts? What times of day should you be posting? There are plenty of websites and blog posts geared towards helping you navigate Instagram, but don't let yourself get bogged down by rules and regulations. In the end, do what makes you feel happiest.
3. Get books. Not all of us are Donald Duck swimming in a pool of golden coins. We can't always afford to buy new releases all the time (and if we're being honest, it's the new releases you really want if you're going to be blogging). You might have seen the word ARCs thrown around a lot. It means Advanced Reader Copy and it's a book that hasn't been published yet. These are the books that you want to be reading and the books that the authors want you to be reading. Early sales depend on early promotion. You can start by letting your followers know that you're open to reviewing books! Often times independent authors are afraid of to approach bloggers about reviewing their books, so letting them know you want to do it is a great way to open that door. (I did that once and received forty DMs in one day with review requests.) Also, join blogger groups on Facebook, join author groups on Facebook, follow your favorite authors and join their newsletters (they'll often let you know when their books are free on Amazon or when they're looking for reviewers). Join websites like Netgalley.com to get access to ARCs. But, also, feel free to review books you already own! People love old favorites.
4. Know your policy. You'll likely get a number of review requests once you start book blogging. The biggest problem with reviewing books that authors have provided you for free is: what do you do if you don't like a book? How do you tell an author patiently waiting for your review that you didn't enjoy their work? It's freaking hard! Start thinking about things like: how honestly will you review books you don't like, what will you tell the authors if you choose not to finish their book or just don't like it, what platforms will you post your reviews on, etc. It can get a little nerve-wracking to tell an author that you don't like what they've written, but some authors enjoy honest feedback. Some authors want you to post even negative reviews, especially on Amazon because the more reviews the better, even if they aren't positive in nature. Personally, I try not to lie. But I also keep my Instagram positive. If I don't like it, I don't tear it to shreds on my posts, but I am honest in my Goodreads and Amazon reviews. I make sure to point out positives (there always are some) and keep negatives in a constructive light. Just because I didn't like something doesn't mean that someone else won't love it!
5. Create a schedule. I personally struggle with this. I receive anywhere between two and ten review requests a week. Some are books that are already out, some are coming out in weeks, and some don't come out for months. It makes it difficult to create a timeline of my reviews because obviously books that are coming out soon take priority over books that don't come out for months, no matter what order the requests are received. Not to mention that I go through phases. Sometimes I want to read historical romances for days, other times I want to read the darkest of romances, and then sometimes I'm into aliens. I don't want to force myself to read a book I'm not feeling at the moment because it means that I might not enjoy my read, through no fault of the book itself. That said, it's not that great of a system because I often lose track of what books I'm supposed to be reading. So, come up with something that works for you!
6. Be yourself. It's easy to look at all these amazing bookstagrammars and compare yourself to their beautiful feeds. Stop. Immediately. Because you'll only discourage yourself. Bookstagramming isn't just about beautiful pictures. It's about passion. It's okay if you don't have beautiful lighting and props galore. Just let your passion and love for the book you're recommending pour out of you. That said, you can still find something unique for your blog. One account @theromanticbaker pairs romance novels with fresh baked desserts and breads. Others focus on specific sub-genres, only reading dark romances or historicals or rom-coms. I started making memes. Find your niche and run with it!
These are just a few basic tips that helped me get started in the book blogging world and I hope that maybe they help guide you beginnings as well. I welcome your questions and comments. Other bloggers: feel free to add your tips to mine!